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"Fire & Damnation" is the 3rd studio album by German thrash metal band, Exumer. It was released in 2012 on Metal Blade Records and produced by Waldemar Sorychta. The line-up for the album was Mem V. Stein (vocals), Ray Mensh (guitar), H.K. (guitar), T. Schiavo (bass) and Matthias Kassner (drums).
After a 25 year gap, Exumer finally returns to the metal scene with their third album. The band had broken up in 1991, played live briefly in 2001, and reformed in 2008. With the legendary heavy metal producer Waldemar Sorychta on-board, the band set out to record "Fire & Damnation". But is it any good? Let's find out!
The album begins with the title track and instantly you know Exumer is back. The opening riff screams of thrash metal legends Slayer, and there's a lot of quality production with the bass and drums sounding excellent. There's a really good short solo in the middle of the song which, again, is something Slayer would be proud of, and I can almost hear Kerry King playing it. Serious shredding is going on here, and it's only the start of the album.
"Vermin of the Sky" continues the brutal assault of thrash metal with quick riffs by both guitarists, and it's on this song in particular where it becomes evident that Matthias Kassner is a seriously talented drummer. There are some clever guitar ideas throughout the song, with the riffs being of a mixed variety but keeping with the same pace.
"The Weakest Limb" begins with a clever riff which sounds a bit like early Exodus and that can only be a good thing. The vocals sound really good on this song, with Mem sounding a little like Mille Petrozza of Exumer's fellow countrymen, Kreator. This is one of my favourite songs off the album because it doesn't need to try to sound good - it naturally is good. The playing seems effortless but it all works when put together.
It's a little clichéd to be comparing Exumer's sound to other bands out there, but it's all too easy to do just that. "New Morality" is a groove thrash song which just screams Machine Head from the guitars and even the vocal style is very much like Robb Flynn's. The chorus reminds me a lot of Anthrax's "Only" in its guitar style. This isn't the best song on the album for me, but some will like the diversity of it. Its saving grace is the ferocious solo near the end of the track.
"Waking the Fire" tries to be a good song but, unfortunately, it's a little on the 'heard it before' side of things. When singing the chorus, Mem pronounces 'fire' and 'fiyah', as heard before with Metallica's James Hetfield on "Jump in the Fire". I do like the drumming on this song, though, which is a good mix of pure thrash metal, double bass pedals and a few drum rolls thrown in for good measure.
"Fallen Saint" is a re-recording of the song off the band's debut studio album "Possessed" in 1986, but this time done with better production. The classic riff is there but it's partly Slayer's classic riff, taken from "Black Magic" which was on Slayer's 1983 debut, "Show No Mercy". I'm not sure why Exumer decided to re-record some songs for this album, but I almost feel cheated, somehow. There is some serious soloing going on here which is always good to hear.
"Crushing Point" is another throwback to the 1980s with standard riffs but the drumming isn't as good here. It's almost as if it's a turning point rather than a crushing point because I think the band rushed this song and I'm certain it doesn't belong on the album. Maybe it would have 25 years ago but if you're going to record a retro thrash song it's got to be good, and this isn't good. This isn't the best song on the album by any means. It tries, but the chorus is dull and almost embarrassing.
"Devil Chaser" begins with some really fast drums before launching into a very heavy song with great guitar playing. Everything what makes a good thrash metal song is present here - the guitar riffs are stellar, the drums are pounding, the bass is clanking and the vocals are loud, angry and aggressive. It's the drumming, though, that wins me over with impressive use of the kit.
"I Dare You" is another re-recording but this time of a song taken off the band's 1987 album, "Rising From the Sea". There really isn't more I can say about this, except what I've already said about "Fallen Saint" in that I don't really believe re-recordings should be on an album when you're launching a comeback. Fans want to hear something new, and something that's 25 years old being recorded again really isn't it.
"Tribal Furies" brings the album to completion, but by this time I'm still a little annoyed at the inclusion of two songs from the band's past to get a feel for it. It's probably a good song but I've lost the listening hunger I had when the first song started, which is a shame because it could have been great. As it is, this song is too much like Slayer (something which I've noted before).
In summary, this should have been an excellent album from a band that just stayed below the mainstream belt of thrash metal but always produced the goods on their first two albums back in the 1980s. However, as much as I hate to harp on about those two re-recorded songs, that's what I have to do. The reason for this is because I still feel the band could have recorded two entirely new songs instead of that which would have made me give it higher marks. It's a good album in places, but it's all been done before.
1. Fire & Damnation
2. Vermin of the Sky
3. The Weakest Limb
4. New Morality
5. Waking the Fire
6. Fallen Saint
7. Crushing Point
8. Devil Chaser
9. I Dare You
10. Tribal Furies
My rating: 6/10